On Ambitious Unfinished Gurus


Be A Lamp Unto Yourselves‘ were the famous last words of the dying Buddha. You are on your own on this one.

The central figure of the Rig Veda was the Rishi, the one who ‘Sees’ [hence ‘Seer’] and composes the hymn [sūkta]. But there is little talk of the Guru [related to the Latin Gravitas] an appellation of later consequence, a role meant for different purposes.

Gurus are the bedrock of an Oral/Apprentice tradition. They are indispensable in Classical Music, in Dance, in Natural Medicine and such where the means are transferable, the ends, specific and measurable. The lineages of the finest Gurus in such fields are impeccable. Not so in misty, open-ended claims such as ‘Truth’.

I am not fond of Gurus. The single biggest hurdle I faced was succumbing to and retracing my steps from the unbaked advice and scripts of half-done Gurus. [But then, you might be very fortunate in having found that extremely rare authentic Guru.]

Stay alert for lectures on the virtue of patience from a teacher who isn’t looking for a job to pay the rent, on Infatuation from one who has never been in Love, on the venality of sex from a celibate monk.

Take them out of their protected and privileged seclusion, ask them to find a parking-spot in a crowded city-center, and they quickly reduce to irate mortals.

Prophets, Pundits, Priests, Professors, Professional Philosophers, Masters, Mystics, Mullahs, Speakers-for-a fee, Writers-for-a-royalty. Gurus of every kind. Walk away.

[And in the spirit of the Self-Eating Expression, make sure to include Writers on the Web, such as this one.]

I’d read Dr. Evans-Wentz’ translation: ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ [Oxford, 1927] as a young man. The newest co-authored translation by a Sogyal Rinpoche [1992] became something of a celebrity text. Here’s an update on the great man. I happened to stumble upon it while writing up this page.


The week after, the New York Times did an expose on the Shambala Guru-King. A delayed comeuppance. [At this rate, the Catholic Church and its Gay predatory priests might see some relief from the Media and postpone bankruptcy.] Read it and weep.